September 9, 2016
As fiber-optic internet grows in popularity, you may be reconsidering the internet options available to you. Internet providers vary depending on your location, and it’s likely that you have one to two Internet Service Provider (ISP) options. Take a look at the different ISPs available in your area, and keep reading to find out which type of internet is best for your needs.
You may not hear much about dial-up anymore, but it’s still a viable internet option—AOL currently has over two million dial-up customers. Dial-up transmits the internet signal through phone lines, which makes it one of the only internet types available in rural areas. Though dial-up generally offers a slow internet connection, it is often a very affordable choice.
DSL uses copper telephone lines to transmit data, and speeds average 12 Mbps. Another benefit of DSL connections is that they are not shared with your neighbors, so you shouldn’t experience slow speeds at busy times. There are two types of DSL connection: ADSL, for people who require high download speeds but don’t do much uploading, and SDSL, which is often used by businesses that need high download and upload speeds.
Satellite internet is accessible to most consumers because it requires only a satellite dish at your location to communicate with a geostationary satellite orbiting Earth. Because the signal needs to travel such a long distance, satellite internet speeds can often be slow and subject to lagging, or latency.
Cable internet is delivered through coaxial cables, which is why it is easy to pair with a cable television subscription. Speeds can reach up to 150 Mbps, but you may have to share a network cable with other subscribers in your area. This means your internet speeds may suffer during peak usage times.
Fiber-optic internet may seem like a thing of the future, but 25% of the United States can now access it. It is still not available everywhere, however, because of the high costs of installing fiber-optic cables. Data is transmitted through translucent glass fibers, which provide some of the fastest internet speeds currently available—often up to 1 Gbps. Your internet speed partially depends on how close the fiber-optic cables come to your location: fiber-to-the-home reaches directly to your premises and is faster than fiber-to-the-node, which reaches a central distribution point and relies on copper cables to deliver internet to homes from there.
Wireless internet uses radio waves to transmit data from your ISP to an antenna at your location. This type of internet connection is not yet available everywhere, but it will likely prove to be very popular due to its versatility and speed—especially among rural customers who do not have many other ISP options, and among travelers who do not have fixed locations.
Choosing the ISP for You
There are a few factors that will impact your internet service decision. It’s important to know which types of service are available in your area, and what speeds they provide. If your household internet activity is low, you may be comfortable with DSL or satellite. However, if you frequently work online and send or receive large files, you may want to consider fiber-optic or wireless internet.
Cost is another important factor for many customers. You may want to ask if the ISP has data caps, additional fees, or charges extra to rent a modem or router. Make sure you know exactly what your plan includes before you agree to pay a monthly rate.
If you’re still having trouble deciding which option is best for you, ask local friends and family about their internet experiences and if they recommend a specific ISP. You can trust them to give you a good idea of what to expect from each service provider.